Last week, Northern Ireland’s pig industry heard the good news it had been waiting for - China’s certification agency, the CNCA, has announced its final approval for our plants to export pork to China.
I am delighted with this news which was announced by The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) as part of a wider UK-China trade deal on Friday.
I look forward to the commencement of exports. In Northern Ireland, two slaughterhouses and two cold stores have now been given the green light to export pork. This announcement is a boost for processors, farmers and the wider agri-food sector as it will expand the marketplace and protect jobs.
Our local industry has indicated that this new trade, which includes the export of trotters, could generate well in excess of £10m in revenue for our pork sector. Therefore, this approval to export represents a very tangible outcome in the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ (DAERA’s) long-term engagement strategy with China.
This welcome news follows years of fruitful engagement and confidence building in Northern Ireland and at the other side of the globe in China. The announcement is the product of concerted lobbying efforts by DAERA working closely with DEFRA in London and officials in Beijing. We have also been co-operating with the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), the Food Standards Agency, Northern Ireland Pork and Bacon Forum, Invest NI and the wider industry here in Northern Ireland to achieve this outcome.
Ministerial visits to China by former ministers, Michelle O’Neill and Michelle McIlveen, in support of our industry were an essential element of this success story. Likewise, continued representation in Beijing by Tim Losty, the Director of the Northern Ireland Bureau out there, has contributed significantly in ensuring that Northern Ireland agri-food trade objectives are kept to the fore in China. We are also indebted to Madam Wang, Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Belfast for her support. This joined up approach between government, industry and key stakeholders is central to this significant announcement.
By recommending approval for Northern Ireland, the Chinese authorities have recognised the rigorous standards we have in place to produce our high-quality, safe and wholesome pork. We place a clear emphasis on traceability at the heart of our production and processing and recognise that a joined up, safe and efficient food supply is essential.
Our pig industry has worked closely with CAFRE over many years to develop innovative technologies to assist in the production of pork products of the highest standards. Information technology-based data analysis has provided farmers with real-time information on their pig carcases directly from the abattoir through the internet to enable them to make management decisions to ensure maximum uniformity and high quality of subsequent carcases.
We have a wealth of world class science to underpin our agri-food industry and I believe our pork industry will play important role in providing high quality, wholesome food to China. Together our farmers, our food processors, our scientists and our vets boost our global reputation for safety, quality and innovation and this is vital for our economy.
This reputation for quality was further endorsed last week with the news that Northern Ireland, along with the rest of the UK, has received approval to export beef to the Philippines.
This was excellent news for our beef exporters who can now trade with the lowest level status available for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).
Our risk status was recognised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) in May 2017 and formally endorsed by the European Union last month allowing exporters to take full advantage of the new trading opportunities it offers. Again, achieving this status and gaining access to the Philippines’ market was the culmination of years of co-operation and effort between government and the industry.
So, as we celebrate the approval of our pork exports to China and our beef exports to the Philippines, I want to assure you that DAERA continues to invest much time and energy into opening new markets across the globe to expand the agri-food industry in Northern Ireland.